A community in the North Carolina mountains is mourning a beloved dog fatally shot by would-be robbers at a country store.
Rocky was dozing on the front porch of Betsey’s Ole Country Store & Cabin Rental on N.C. 90 in the Caldwell County community of Collettsville when he was shot on Sunday, the Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook.
Investigators posted a photo of a van whose occupants are wanted for questioning in the case.
“Why would somebody hurt that gentle giant?” Rocky’s owner, Erica Penley, told Observer news partner WBTV. “I don’t understand.”
Rocky, a big, adorable Rottweiler, lovingly greeted everyone who entered and left the store, Penley and store owner Bruce Gray told the station.
Penley, who was at the store that afternoon, told WBTV it appeared as if the van driver was going to rob the store, “and my dog bolted toward him.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office said it arrested Joshua Wayne Hawley, 35, of Morganton in connection with Rocky’s death. Hawley told investigators he shot Rocky because the dog attacked him, according to a Sheriff’s Office statement. Hawley is charged with one count of felony cruelty to animals. Bond was set at $10,000, and Hawley’s first appearance in District Court is set for Wednesday.
Social media users expressed grief and anger over the killing of Rocky on Sunday. At least 500 posted comments of sorrow and revenge.
“This baby didn’t deserve this,” Kandy Coley posted. “He has loved unconditionally.”
Christie Mackie organized a “Justice for Rocky” fundraiser on PayPal that had raised $3,475 by Tuesday afternoon.
Part of the proceeds will be contributed to a fund for information that leads to an arrest and conviction, she said. Any leftover money will be donated to “A Clean Wilson Creek Fund,” she said of the creek near the store.
“Everyone that knew Rocky knows that he was a gentle and loving soul,” Mackie posted on the PayPal site.
Witnesses said the van was a newer model, dark gray Honda Odyssey, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
After investigators posted photos of the van, some on social media said the van was a Toyota Sienna.
Anyone with information is asked to call sheriff’s Detective Mark Noble at 828-759-1554 or Lenoir Caldwell Crime Stoppers at 828-758-8300.